By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow faced questioning from State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) concerning the root of some of the university’s controversies that made national headlines. However, it wasn’t Crow’s fate to face Hoffman’s inquisition alone — he found an intercessor in Chairwoman Regina Cobb (R-Kingman).
Hoffman posed questions during Wednesday’s House Appropriations Committee meeting relevant to ASU’s funding. The legislator’s first question pertained to the cancellation of a fundraiser for a conservative program at ASU: the Political History and Leadership (PHL) program.
As AZ Free News reported last week, ASU’s initial response to the event cancellation was murky. Out of the three reasons given to various individuals involved in the situation, Crow asserted that an unnamed staff member’s failure to follow planning policy was the reason for the event cancellation, which he insisted was really a postponement. At the time, ASU spokesman Jerry Gonzalez concurred with that statement.
“The event at the Desert Botanical Garden was canceled due to a breach of scheduling protocol by a faculty member in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies,” stated Gonzalez. “The university welcomes the opportunity for this event to be rescheduled following the required protocols.”
However, several of the scheduled speakers for the event were informed by ASU officials prior to publication of our report that the event was canceled due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Those speakers were informed that Crow wasn’t aware of the event or its cancellation at the time. Others reported that the choice of speakers was deemed too controversial: Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) and former Utah congressman and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz.
Hoffman addressed this most recent controversy first in his line of questioning for Crow. The representative’s question flowed seamlessly with Crow’s closing request: that the legislature afford more funding for ASU’s “Freedom School”: the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL). Hoffman applauded SCETL, but asked about the treatment of the PHL program.
“I’m wondering how you feel about the political history and leadership program that you canceled the event on?” asked Hoffman. “How come that doesn’t get the same level of praise considering its disproportionate impact on the department?”
Crow responded that the event was delayed, not canceled, and blamed an unnamed faculty member for not following proper schedule procedures, which he didn’t elaborate. He promised that the event was rescheduled.
“This is an event I’m very familiar with. We’re very happy to host that event, we’re very happy to host all of the individuals that are coming to the event,” said Crow.
When Hoffman attempted to follow up with another question, Cobb said Hoffman’s line of questioning wasn’t appropriate for the subject.
“That’s a question that shouldn’t have been asked, so don’t do a follow-up on that one,” said Cobb.
Hoffman responded that they could discuss the subject later and insisted he wasn’t done.
“Well, you’re only addressed to when I addressed you,” said Cobb.
“Which you have already authorized,” responded Hoffman.
“I said ‘Don’t follow up,’ and you said, ‘Okay, then.’ Do you want a different question, Mr. Hoffman?” asked Cobb.
“I want less hostility from my chairman. That’s what I’d like,” responded Hoffman.
Cobb repeated whether Hoffman would like to ask a different question, and Hoffman confirmed. Hoffman then asked what Crow was doing about the multiple incidences of high-profile racism on his campus.
“Unfortunately the racism that we’re seeing is permeating from a cultural and institutional level[,]” asserted Hoffman.
Before Crow could respond, Cobb intervened with an assertion that Hoffman’s question wasn’t relevant to their budget material being reviewed that day. Cobb would only interrupt Hoffman as he attempted to ask her if or when the committee would bring Crow back for questioning on the subject of additional funding.
“Are you going to have him back to testify in front of us so we can ask him that question? Because if you expect us to sign off on more funding for ASU…” said Hoffman.
Cobb ignored Hoffman and called on State Representative Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), who lavished praise on Crow for his work. When Sierra said to Crow that he only had one question for him, Cobb chimed in to say, “Thank God,” and chuckled to herself. At that point, a soft, inaudible exchange occurred between Cobb and an unknown male as Sierra continued to address Crow. It is unclear whether that exchange was related to Cobb’s next response; after Sierra finished asking Crow about what work ASU was doing with the state’s economic agencies, Cobb chimed in again to accuse legislators of grandstanding.
“Again, that’s off the subject. I really want to stick to the appropriations. We got a lot of people here to speak today, we can grandstand all we want to —” said Cobb.
Hoffman interrupted Cobb to call a point of order.
“This is not grandstanding from Sierra or myself. These are things that will impact how we vote on funding for this man’s school,” insisted Hoffman.
Cobb seemed to agree.
“And what we’re talking about is the funding right here, okay…” said Cobb.
“Correct. And he’s standing in front of us and we have material questions for Arizona State,” responded Hoffman.
Cobb disagreed. She insisted that she determined neither Sierra or Hoffman’s questions were relevant to the task at hand, but refused to elaborate why. Hoffman insinuated that there was no point to the committee’s presence, if what Cobb said was true.
“So this is just a dog and pony show?” asked Hoffman.
“No, this is to let us know what their initiatives are this year. That’s what they’re here to do, is to let us know what their education initiatives are coming forward to this year,” said Cobb.
When Hoffman attempted to insist that Crow should answer to “substantive questions, like issues of racism on campus,” Cobb threatened him with removal from the committee if he didn’t stand down.
It appeared that Cobb’s refusal to allow any substantive questions caused the remainder of the committee to dare not pose any questions of their own. Several questions from State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) were permitted prior to Cobb shutting down the subject: Kavanagh asked about foreign enrollment and online learning trends.
In a statement to AZ Free News, Hoffman expressed disappointment that Crow didn’t step up and answer for the controversies plaguing ASU.
“Michael Crow’s refusal to answer for the extremely concerning allegations of institutionalized racism, viewpoint discrimination by professors, and rampant wokeism at Arizona State University during yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee is yet another glaring example of his utter disdain for any level of transparency, oversight and accountability,” stated Hoffman. “Under his watch, racism and wokeism by professors and staff has led to an increase in high profile incidents of discrimination on campus, yet when questioned during his testimony in front of the state’s top appropriators he chose to hide behind Ms. Cobb, the committee chairwoman. Mr. Crow’s appalling behavior has given legislators merely one more in a long line of reasons to oppose any new funding for his university.”
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.